Emma

Emma, by Jane Austen, first published December 1815
My rating: ★★✫✫✫ 2/5. 

19th Century Back to the Classics 2016 
 
How can one review this book? I know I’m already in trouble by rating it like I did. I believe the world divides between Jane Austen fans and everybody else. I’m in the everybody else category.

There’s the value of the book and how it relates to me. The worth of the book is immense, with double “m” like Emma herself. I know the world of books as we know it won’t be the same without Jane Austen, and specially without Emma. She even employed a new technique called free indirect style (I read that in this article about how this book changed the face of fiction. And that article I found at the review of another reader of this book in the 19th century category for our Back to the Classics 2016 challenge.)

It’s not that I did not ‘like’ the book because I don’t like Emma. It’s not even that I don’t find the book worth of being read (because I do). It’s just that the book’s setting, the characters, the topics at discussion, precisely produce maybe what it was those people living at that time felt, “boredom, and a deeper socially ingrained oppressive social climate”. But as much as I was listening to the book and laughing, grinning, or shaking my head in disbelief of pages and pages discussing trivialities, and listening to strident remarks by the society gossips, I have to say that the book has stayed with me since I finished it.

At the end of the day, I am truly glad I met Emma and those around her. I keep going back to the novel, and seeing Jane Austen’s audacity and sharp judgment. There’s a fascination in her way of writing so peculiar to her that I’m sure we’d miss it, and maybe it is so we, or I, take it so much for granted. Such is the power of her books, that they have rendered themselves to multiple screen interpretations. I have not seen any but maybe sometime I will. Jane Austen is a well deserved phenomena, not just in the book’s world, but in the visual world, in our collective mind (whatever that is, I’m just randomly using those words to say she has shaped and explained Victorian England (specially the countryside) as we know it, and I’m sure we will keep going back and forth). Actually, another strong motive I had to read this book was that in our bookclub, we wanted to read Emma, a Modern Retelling, and I’m extremely curious about how that modern retelling is written. The author, Alexander McCall Smith, is the writer of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: A No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Novel. I have always seen those books at book sales and never got them (I thought they were not so good, but I’m having second thoughts. Have you read any of those?) The friends who have at my book club seriously like them.

I think I’m going to change my rating. And still my rating it’s my personal rating, so don’t think much about it. If you are a Jane Austen’s fan, my sincere apologies for this irreverent review. One Jane Austen a year, will keep the literary doctor away, that’s for sure. I’m not sure if all her fans started by being blown away by her books since book one (for me, Pride and Prejudice was that book one), or if they made it book by book just to be part of that club, just to be able to compare and contrast, rate their favorite and less favorite of her books, discuss which is their favorite(s) character(s), take tests that tell us which Jane Austen woman we are, or man character we like, etc. This is kind of crazy. I’m thinking I have to read Mansfield Park. Convince me! OK, OK, I will!

My rating: ★★★✫✫ 3/5.

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3 comments on “Emma

  1. Jane expected her readers not to like Emma — the character, that is. She's spoiled, indolent, and bossy. I think she's a very young version of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, although she had a Mr Knightly, so I expect she'll turn out far better than Lady Catherine did.

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  2. I wonder how I would feel about Emma if I had “met” her as adult. I was a young teen when we were introduced so while I saw her flaws, I definitely experienced them differently than I know I would know (although now we are such good friends I overlook them. It's what friends do, you know 🙂 ) I actually have had a cat named Mr Knightley, a dog named Emma and a fish named Frank so I cant say I feel the same way you do, but I still do understand your rating.

    And I just read that retelling and found it truly awful. And I normally like AMS.

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  3. I'm definitely not a fan of JA Kelly, because I don't even remember Lady Catherine (and I've read P&P twice, but…) And yes, Mr. Mr Knightly was quite her needed balance and motor for self improvement.

    MacKenzie, YES, reading some books when young help us form different relationships with them and their characters. We are loyal to our friends, and when one is young, we don't see Emma as “bad”, actually, we may see the grown ups around her annoying and moralizing bores. I feel sympathy for her, after all, aren't I a bit of an Emma myself. I'm grateful for the book, yet I cannot bring myself to be a die hard fan. I don't discard reading more of her books in the future, though. They are very iconic. It's so strange, but we all read books for different reasons, sometimes “disliked” authors still are captivating, and there's so much to “like” in them.

    LOL… the good thing about the retelling is that, if it's an awful one, it's scheduled for December this year, and awful books are the funnest to discuss among other people and good food. But i'll come back to you and let you know, I may “love it” (at this rate, we have such different x-rays as readers than anything can happen).

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